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Todd

Spiritual, But Not Religious

posted by: May 14, 2012 - 6:01am

Christianity After ReligionBaltimore-born Diana Butler Bass has written extensively about the state of matters of faith in America over the past thirty years. Now, in Christianity after Religion: the End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, she argues that we are once again in a spiritual upheaval in the United States. This, she posits, is yet another in the line of spiritual “awakenings” that has gripped people of faith during times of change, such as today - the early 21st century.

 

Bass discusses some of the religious changes that have taken hold in the United States: the falling away of many from the faiths of their parents and ancestors; the loss of membership among large Christian denominations, such as Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant groups; and the current rise in self-made spirituality. A surprising piece of information is how megachurches, which grew out of the most recent spiritual awakening of the 1970s, have largely plateaued in popularity over the past decade. Testimonies, analyzed polls, and quotes from religious scholars and leaders comparing the beliefs of Americans over the decades are interspersed throughout, lending considerable validity to her arguments.

 

The current awakening the author describes is the way in which Christianity is evolving beyond traditional religious structures. Our global connectedness and increased access to communication has allowed individuals to choose spiritual elements from many religious backgrounds, such as prayer, yoga, meditation, and joyful traditions to create their own connection with a higher power. These faiths are also instilled with valuable information coming from the secular world, such as environmental and social considerations. This is a provocative and eye-opening work from one of today’s top religion writers.


 
 

The Darkest Dark

posted by: May 2, 2012 - 1:05am

A Black Hole is Not a HoleMost people consider the science of the sun, moon, planets, stars and the surrounding universe interesting, but often overwhelming. A Black Hole Is NOT a Hole, written especially for middle graders, turns out to be an excellent introduction to deep space concepts for people of all ages.

 

Big scientific concepts such as matter, mind-boggling distance (light-years!), and perhaps the biggest of them all, gravity, are given ample, clear explanations. The existence of black holes has been difficult to prove since their discovery, and what could become too much astrophysics is distilled as simply as possible. That Einstein never fully accepted the concept of black holes in his lifetime shows how far science has come in recent decades. Artist depictions and telescopic images fill the book with pictures that do their best to make the unimaginable come to life. Facts are engaging and well-explained. For example, the outer limit of a black hole is called the Event Horizon; from this point, no matter can escape the pull within. And our own galaxy has black holes, the largest of which makes up the center of the Milky Way, found in the constellation Sagittarius!

 

An extremely useful glossary and websites to further explore round out this brilliant informational book that will open the eyes of readers who will learn how a black hole is not quite a hole, or at least not a hole in the way that we on Earth know them. And as the author often states, science is a moving target, and each day researchers are learning more about the darkest dark of our universe.


 
 

Standing Together

posted by: April 20, 2012 - 12:11pm

The Silence of Our FriendsGraphic novels depicting actual events can be incredibly successful or dismal failures. In the case of The Silence of Our Friends, happily, the former is true. This semi-autobiographical story of the race tensions and riots in 1968 Houston deals with events largely unknown or forgotten. In the months before the demonstrations in and around Texas Southern University began, co-author Mark Long’s father had moved his family from San Antonio to Houston. Jack Long’s career was that of an on-the-scene reporter for a local TV station’s news department. To get a more accurate perspective of the situation, Jack Long befriended an African-American man, Larry Thompson and both families tentatively got to know each other. As the movement grew more heated, a deadly riot broke out on campus and both Jack Long and Larry Thompson found themselves in the middle of a murder trial. A well-known quote of Martin Luther King, Jr. is the source of the work’s title: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

 

A great benefit to the format of the graphic novel is retelling a story of this nature in a new, evocative manner. Eisner-Award winner Nate Powell’s flowing line drawings capture the era, and add to the storyline. In particular, Long’s recollections of his family’s internal issues are captured in the images if not directly confronted in the text. The words pull no punches with the overt racist attitudes of the day, including uncomfortable language.  This book is highly recommended to readers interested in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s and those who are looking to better understand the value of the graphic format.


 
 

Plenty

posted by: April 18, 2012 - 11:32am

Another BrotherThe Unruly QueenMore 

Three picture books take on one of the first questions that kids have to come to terms with: when is enough enough?

 

For a while, Davy was an only lamb. He enjoyed the focused attention he received from his parents, until one after another brother arrived on the scene. Before he knew it, there were twelve brothers, all of which wanted to follow in Davy’s hoofsteps, everywhere he went. Matthew Cordell, author and illustrator of Another Brother, uses bright, funny line drawings and successful, subtle ovine humor in this satisfying and surprisingly touching sibling story.

 

Minerva is the subject of The Unruly Queen, written and illustrated by E.S. Redmond. This is largely a tale of gluttony, as Minerva seems more interested in using as many resources (and exasperated nannies) as she possibly can. However, when her fifty-third nanny finally beats her at her own game, Minerva receives her much needed comeuppance. The rhyming couplets match the art, which is reminiscent of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton.

 

An unnamed magpie has what we would refer to as hoarding tendencies, in More, written by I.C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies. Acrylic and colored pencil drawings of the magpie, mice, and objects star in this timeless fable that mirrors present-day issues of materialism. A field mouse offers the magpie the gift of a marble, but after collecting many more items, its nest becomes overwhelmed by many other found objects. After a catastrophic incident, the field mice help the magpie determine just what matters, and what is enough. 


 
 

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